Statement by H.E. Nhial Deng Nhial
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Republic of South Sudan
at the meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council
Addis Ababa, 24 October 2012
Your Excellency the Chairperson of the African Union Peace and Security Council,
Esteemed Ministers and Excellencies, the members of the African Union Peace and Security Council,
Your Excellency Madam Chairperson of the African Union Commission,
Your Excellency, the Commissioner for Peace and Security
Your Excellency, President Thabo Mbeki, Chair of the African Union High-level Implementation Panel
Your Excellencies the members of the African Union High-level Implementation Panel,
The Government of the Republic of South Sudan is grateful for the opportunity to brief the African Union Peace and Security Council on the agreements signed, here in Addis Ababa on September 27th, between our country and the Republic of Sudan, and to offer our suggestions and views both on the implementation of these agreements and the process by which outstanding issues must be definitively resolved.
May I first take the opportunity, on behalf of my Government, to congratulate the Chairperson of the Commission on the assumption of her responsibilities on 15 October, 2012. Madam Chairperson, you have the full support of my government, and we wish you well in your work to address the many challenges our continent faces.
Excellencies, exactly six months ago my colleague Minister Deng Alor Kuol briefed this Council on the state of the relations between Sudan and South Sudan. Our countries had not agreed on all of the terms of our separation, and as a result our relations deteriorated, and we appeared to be on the brink of a broader conflict. However, South Sudan stated clearly then what has always been our position: that war should be in our past, and that peace and prosperity should be our future. Now, with the help of the African Union and of this Council, supported in particular by the High Level Implementation Panel, and with the endorsement of the United Nations Security Council, we have established a foundation for a more productive relationship, in which two viable states living side by side in peace can emerge. We are thus on the brink of a new stage in our relations, in which we hope – at last – our two states can build peace and foster development for the benefit of all of our peoples.
As you know, the last round of negotiations between our two countries culminated in the signing of nine agreements. These agreements specify how the Republics of Sudan and South Sudan will arrange their future relations in the fields of security, borders, trade, the four freedoms and the health of our economies. As President Mbeki, Chair of the Panel, has himself pointed out, and I quote: “The agreement sets a unique benchmark between two African sovereign states about how African neighbours should construct relations, to give concrete reality to the objectives shared by the peoples of our continent of African integration, unity, solidarity and mutually beneficial co-operation.”
As members of this esteemed Council are also aware, these agreements have now been ratified by the South Sudan Legislative Assembly and by the National Assembly in Khartoum. The Republic of South Sudan stands ready to staff and establish the variety of implementation mechanisms created by the agreements.
The agreements include generous concessions by South Sudan in order to ensure peace and stability between our two countries. South Sudan has made significant financial sacrifices in the interest of peace. The Transitional Financial Arrangement whereby South Sudan will provide over 3 billion US dollars to Sudan over the next three and a half years in addition to the forgiveness of 4.9 billion US Dollars in debt, represents the most generous contribution by any state in Africa to the welfare of its neighbour.
The agreement to open the borders is another important step towards building a constructive relationship between South Sudan and Sudan. It will allow more of our people to return to South Sudan, it will increase the cross-border trade in goods and services, especially among the war-torn border communities and it will generally help to revitalize the economies of both countries.
On behalf of my government, I would like to pay tribute to the members of the High-level Implementation Panel for their efforts. We are most grateful for the dedication and perseverance that Presidents Mbeki, Buyoya and Abubakr have brought to the negotiations in the last two and a half years. We also wish to thank the members of this Council, the UNSC and all those in the international community who have provided political and technical support to the parties during these negotiations.
On past experience, our states will still need some support to implement these agreements, which establish several commissions and mechanisms. There may be times when the parties will be unable to resolve implementation issues bilaterally. We respectfully invite the members of this Council to prepare for this eventuality and to consider what implementation modalities could be made available to the parties.
Despite all that has been achieved, which is not inconsiderable, there nonetheless remain issues that require the urgent attention of this Council: the final resolution of the status of Abyei, and the issue of the disputed and claimed border areas between our two countries. We regret that it was not possible to reach a fully comprehensive agreement in Addis Ababa at the end of September.
Before touching on these issues in more detail, please permit me to remind you that the achievements of the past seven years have been based firmly on the groundwork established by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005. Those provisions of the CPA which have not yet been implemented, with regard to the status of Abyei, the demarcation of the north-south border and the Protocols of the two states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, remain as challenges to all of us who wish two build two viable states living in peace and cooperation with each other.
I further note that the communiqué issued by this Council on April 24th of this year clearly called upon the parties to reach definitive agreements on all outstanding issues within three months. This included, and I quote from paragraph 13 of the communiqué: “resolution of the status of the disputed and claimed border areas and the demarcation of the border, and the final status of Abyei.”
As Council members are aware, South Sudan accepted without reservation the High-level Implementation Panel’s last compromise proposal on Abyei. I must also remind this Council that this was not the first time that we have compromised on the issue of Abyei in the interest of peace. When we signed the CPA in 2005, it called for a demarcation of the boundaries of the Abyei Area and stipulated that a referendum be held in Abyei on 9 January 2011, to allow the Ngok Dinka and other residents of the Area to decide for themselves if they wished to be part of the North or the South. The findings of the Abyei Boundary Commission were rejected by the President of Sudan. We next agreed to refer the boundary issue to international arbitration and accepted without reservation the finding of the arbitral panel, which reduced the size of the area owned and claimed by the nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms recognized under the CPA. This finding is binding, regardless of the objections raised to it by the Republic of Sudan. Despite these compromises on our side, the Abyei referendum stipulated by the CPA was never held, due to continued obstructions from the Republic of Sudan. Sudan then overran the Abyei Area in May 2011, displacing over 100,000 people and destroying Abyei Town for the second time in four years. One month later, we signed an agreement with Sudan to enhance the CPA’s Abyei Protocol. The agreement was an attempt to diffuse tensions in the Abyei Area. The new agreement maintained the Abyei referendum, and detailed obligations for our two countries, including the withdrawal of their respective forces from the area. South Sudan has withdrawn all of its armed forces from Abyei, whereas Sudan continues to have SAF elements in the name of an armed “oil police” stationed in Diffra (Keich), despite international demands for their withdrawal.
Since the African Union Peace and Security Council issued its roadmap in April of this year, Sudan has continued to block progress on this dossier. The Panel’s last compromise proposal on Abyei, put to the parties in September, was very clear. Sudan had no basis for rejecting it. South Sudan has practically run out of compromises and the Republic of Sudan must accept that a referendum in Abyei be held by October 2013, and the referendum commission must be chaired by a nominee of the African Union. We invite the Council to issue a decision that is fully consistent with the Panel’s last proposal.
We therefore urge the Council to adopt the AUHIP’s Sept, 21, 2012 “Proposal on the Final Status of Abyei Area”. This Proposal, which the Government of South Sudan has, in the interest of durable peace with Sudan, unreservedly endorsed and is ready to fully implement, derives its legitimacy and authority from the fact that it represents the spirit and gist of the Abyei Protocol of 2005 that the Parties crafted on the basis of their own free will. The Abyei Protocol enshrines the commitment of both South Sudan and Sudan to a referendum as the sole mechanism for resolving the problem of Abyei and at no point during the CPA negotiations did either party contemplate partition as a means of resolving the dispute over the Area. Therefore Sudan’s novel contention that Abyei should be partitioned between the two states, if accepted, would not only amount to a travesty of justice for the Ngok Dinka whose Abyei Homeland is being progressively chipped away by Khartoum, but would also re-open the debate over Abyei, with potentially fatal political consequences for the two states.
Excellencies, we urge you to take the bold decision of not postponing a decision on the AUHIP Proposal on the final status of Abyei. We fully understand that the temptation to withhold such a decision pending further negotiations by the parties may be too strong to resist. Nevertheless we call upon you to proceed with a resolution on the matter in the interests of consolidating the forward momentum generated by the recently concluded agreements between South Sudan and Sudan.
As a matter of principle, we have never been averse to continuing dialogue with Sudan on any issue no matter how hopeless that may seem, but in the present case in particular, it is hard to see much value in further discussions with Khartoum on Abyei. The reasons are quite obvious. The AUHIP had afforded the two sides almost unlimited opportunities to engage on the issue and at the highest levels. Indeed the issue of Abyei and for the best part of the negotiations period, was exclusively assigned to Presidents Salva Kiir and Omer El Bashir to handle, both prior to and after independence of South Sudan. And as is to be recalled, all their endeavours failed to bear any fruit . So it remains to be seen what a few more weeks of negotiations can achieve that protracted negotiation sessions between the two Presidents on Abyei could not accomplish. The other question now is, who are those from the two sides that will undertake negotiations of a matter on which the two Presidents have failed to find a solution
In light of the latest presentations by South Sudan and Sudan on Abyei, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the Parties’ paths have started diverging away from the referendum exercise that they had mutually agreed to for Abyei as part of the of the CPA of 2005. Whereas South Sudan maintains its commitment to a referendum as the sole mechanism for determining Abyei’s final political status and in conformity with the Abyei Protocol, the Republic of Sudan has clearly embarked on a new trajectory; namely partition. The Referendum and Partition trajectories run in parallel and are therefore irreconcilable. What this means in practice, is that even if the parties and at whatever level were to resume negotiations on Abyei, they would certainly not be able to do so and reach agreement since they do not share a single common premise. It will be like going back to the drawing board. In our opinion such an eventuality must be avoided at all cost.
Excellencies, it is in light of these considerations that we earnestly reiterate our appeal to you to endorse the AUHIP Proposal on the final status of Abyei before you depart Addis Ababa
On the disputed and claimed border areas, we remind the Council that its April 24th decision required final agreement on the status of both these matters. Consequently it is imperative that this Council adopt a resolution on the terms of reference for the experts, that formally places both the Disputed and Claimed Areas firmly within the mandate of the Panel. It is worth reminding your Excellencies that the clashes of April this year between Sudan and South Sudan were on the claimed area of Panthou (Heglig)
South Sudan has accepted the AUHIP’s suggestions and proposed mechanism for dealing with the disputed and claimed areas. It is in everyone’s interests for there to be definitive solutions for all disputed and claimed areas. We welcome the appointment of the AU Experts Panel on Boundary claims and Disputes between Sudan and South Sudan and we look forward to work with the Panel. Once their non-binding findings are issued, we are prepared to engage in limited and time-bound bilateral negotiations with the Republic of Sudan. We suggest that the parties should be invited back to brief this Council on their negotiations after a limited period. Thereafter, if our two states fail to agree – given that we have been negotiating these border issues since the signing of the CPA in 2005 – we must have the option to refer the issue of the disputed and claimed border areas and the demarcation of the border to international arbitration. Our approach here is fully consistent with the best practices of the African Union in dealing with border disputes. We therefore invite this Council to issue a decision that includes support for that eventuality, should it be necessary.
I would be remiss if I did not briefly mention a third component of the CPA that remains unresolved, namely the fate of the peoples of Southern Kordofan and Southern Blue Nile. The Republic of South Sudan has offered its good offices to help resolve the ongoing humanitarian and security problems in any way we can. We deplore the unnecessary suffering of our Sudanese brothers and sisters across the border and have taken in several tens of thousands of them with the welcome help of the international community. We would very much prefer to see such help being delivered to them in their own home areas, as a result of the implementation of the humanitarian agreements signed by all parties and the negotiation of a cessation of hostilities. Whilst all the parties have accepted these points, they have not yet been acted upon. There can be no military solution in the Two Areas – instead there must be a meaningful political process which addresses the legitimate grievances of the peoples of these areas, in accordance with the stipulations of the CPA and of the 28 June 2011 Agreement.
To conclude, my government has done everything in its power to ensure that the Republic of South Sudan has complied fully with the provisions of this Council’s April 24th communiqué as well as with those of UN Security Council Resolution 2046. While we work to implement the agreements that we signed last month, it is now up to the African Union to decide, how to proceed with the remaining outstanding issues. My government looks forward to hearing what the Council concludes and will act in accordance with its decisions.
Once again, we thank the members of this Council for their continued support to our two states in our pursuit of peace, stability and development.
Thank you, Excellencies.